Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


February 29, 2016

Ensuring jobs for British Columbians

Simpson: I’m pleased to join in the debate on this issue. I guess, at the outset…. The member for Shuswap talks about the value of job fairs. We all think job fairs are a pretty good idea. We have job fairs, opportunities for people to get together, maybe connect with employers. That’s a good thing, and it’s a good thing if we can do that.

The member talks about all of the people who attended these fairs. I suspect that probably is reflective of the fact that we have two economies in British Columbia: one in the Lower Mainland and the lower Island, and one in the rest of the province where, in fact, it is challenging for people right now. People are challenged about employment opportunities. They are concerned about their employment opportunities and how they’re going to support their families and how their communities are going to thrive.

That, I think, really raises the underlying and fundamental question in this whole debate. We saw it in the project development agreement that we debated last year around Pacific NorthWest LNG, a project development agreement that said nothing about guaranteeing British Columbians jobs, nothing about local procurement, nothing about apprenticeships and nothing about First Nations’ involvement in that employment. It just simply isn’t in the agreement.

The member talks about Site C. We have exactly the same situation at Site C. There’s nothing there about employment for British Columbians. There’s nothing about local procurement. There’s nothing about apprenticeships. There’s nothing about First Nations. At this point, in fact, what we see is a dispute with First Nations over the project in its entirety, a dispute that is ongoing.

That’s the problem. It’s a particularly profound issue with Site C. That’s taxpayers’ dollars. That’s B.C. taxpayers who are going to pay the $10-billion-plus that this project will cost, and B.C. taxpayers wonder why there’s no B.C.-first approach to this project, why British Columbians aren’t a priority in this project, why that isn’t clear in the agreements in the first place.

I attended an event that the member for Shuswap was at: the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association. It was an interesting kind of event. We got to join tables of business people and go around. In at least two of those tables, I heard the same comments — frustration from those business people that they could not find the opportunity to be able to have their businesses benefit from Site C. They talked very specifically about that. They talked very specifically about the lack of any B.C.-first model. They talked very specifically, one of them a welding company, about how they just could not get an opportunity to get in.

We know that’s true. That’s where we have to ask ourselves the question here. If we’re going to invest, particularly, taxpayers’ dollars in capital projects, why aren’t we taking a B.C.-first approach? Why aren’t we saying jobs will be there for British Columbians first and foremost? The companies that want to bid…. Anybody should have the right to bid, but they’re going to meet conditions, whether they’re a B.C. company or an Alberta company. They’re going to meet conditions around hiring British Columbians, around making sure our small businesses and other businesses get a chance to get some of that business.

When we talk about jobs on these projects, we need to remember there are a lot of jobs that get created in the businesses that support those projects. The government has ignored all of those entirely — $10 billion, at least, of taxpayers’ money and not an assurance of a single job for a British Columbian.

Will British Columbians get work? Sure they will. Will they get the work they should get? I don’t believe they will. Will businesses get the work? I don’t believe it. Are we going to see the apprenticeships that we should see on these projects, when there are vast amounts of public dollars? It doesn’t appear to be the case. Mostly, it’s a conflict with First Nations when it comes to the Site C project. We’ll hope it will do a little bit better on other projects as we move forward. But that’s the situation we face today.

When we talk about job fairs and when we talk about these issues, let’s be clear. It’s time for a B.C.-first approach to economic development. This government has failed and failed. It’s about B.C. Liberal friends first. That seems to be the case.

It’s time to put people in this province first. This government has failed to do it, and they failed to do it spending the taxpayers’ money. Terribly unfortunate, but that’s the harsh reality we face.

https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/40th-parliament/5th-session/20160229am-Hansard-v33n8

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